Oct 31, 2020

DRLI sues NBC over punitive fines against ARISE TV, Channels TV and AIT


The lawyers' group known Digital Rights Lawyers Initiative (DRLI) has filed a suit against the National Broadcasting Commission for the fines the agency recently imposed on three television stations namely ARISE TV, Channels TV and AIT. In the suit filed at the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday 30th October, 2020 and marked FHC/ABJ/1441/2020 the NGO, whose main objective is to protect and promote digital rights of citizens including freedom of expression, essentially alleges that the sanction and fine imposed on the television stations creates a chilling effect on freedom of expression and constitutes an unjustifiable interference of its members' right to freedom of expression particularly, their right to receive ideas and information from the sanctioned television stations.
The suit, which was filed by the organization's lawyers, Solomon Okedara and Olumide Babalola, seeks the following reliefs from the court:
i. A DECLARATION that the Respondent's arbitrary act of sanctioning and imposing fine of Three Million Naira (N3,000,000) on each of ARISE TV, CHANNELS TV and AIT purportedly in line with Sections 5.6.3 and 5.6.9 of the Nigeria Broadcasting Code creates a chilling or stifling effect on freedom of expression and is likely to interfere with the right of the Applicant's members to freedom of expression, particularly, their right to receive ideas and information without interference as guaranteed by section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.


ii. A DECLARATION that the fine of Three Million Naira (N3,000,000) imposed on each of ARISE TV, CHANNELS TV and AIT indeed constitutes an interference to the Applicant's members' right to freedom of expression, particularly, their right to receive ideas and information without interference guaranteed by section 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act (Cap A9) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

iii. A DECLARATION that the respondent not being a judicial body lacks the power to impose fines on any broadcaster, including fines imposed on ARISE TV, CHANNELS TV and AIT and the imposition of such fines is null and void. 

iv. A CONSEQUENTIAL ORDER of setting aside the fine of Three Million Naira (N3,000,000) imposed on each of ARISE TV, CHANNELS TV and AIT as same was unlawfully imposed.

v. A PERPETUAL INJUNCTION restraining the Respondent, its officers, agents and/or representatives from imposing sanctions or fines or excessive, disproportionate, unlawful and indeed unconstitutional restrictions on television stations including ARISE TV, CHANNELS TV, AIT and other television or radio stations which will interfere with the Applicant's members' right to freedom of expression, particularly, their right to receive ideas and information without interference.

vi. AN ORDER of award of sum of One Million Naira only (N1,000,000) to the Applicant as the cost of this action.

vii. AND SUCH OTHER ORDER (S) as this honourable Court may deem fit to grant in the circumstance.

Speaking, after the suit was filed, Solomon Okedara noted that the protection of the Applicant's members' right to receive ideas and information is not just required for proper for their proper development in all facets of life but it is indeed a matter of their fundamental right to freedom of expression which cannot just be toyed with by any person or entity. Okedara further noted that ensuring a free and independent media is not just a matter of discretion of the government or regulatory agency but a mandatory requirement for a democratic society.

  


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